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Monday · August 18 2003

My dad found salvation for the soul of my 1994 Nissan Maxima. I'm going to skip any formal definition of what I believe a soul to be and firmly state that I do not believe automobiles have souls. My dad does and that's just the beginning.

My family of 2 and 2 cats has 2 cars, but we need only one. I crawl back and forth to work in the fuel efficient 1999 Corolla. Stacy takes a 10 minute jaunt to Evanston on the Metra. The Maxima sits on the street alone, undriven, and uncared for. I haven't abused or mistreated it. I am much crueller. I deserted the car on the street, hoping it would just vanish from my responsibilites like a troubled old friend. When my father sees the Maxima under the tree on the street, he sees a possibility; a reclamation project; something to shine up, make new and be proud of. I see a black car covered with bird shit and sap; a tax on my guilt and wallet; something to sell and walk away from.

My dad and I have a tacit agreement that he helps me with car problems and I try to keep his computer functional. He doesn't know where the 'Enter' key is on the keyboard and I would have to go to the library to have a clue of pointing out my carburetor. We gladly trade service for service, but we're openly appalled at the other's complete indifference and incompetence with our own expertise. We both know the needs of this Maxima fall far outside of our service arrangement. The car has a dead battery, a non functional radio, an unknown list of mechanical shortcomings and 4 months of gunk crusted on every vent and window.

He steps up to the hood and takes a look. He laughs, "You're a piece of work." I feel the requisite shame, but I know he won't step away from this project. He won't let me kill the soul that he sees in the car. Within 2 hours, the engine is running, the radio is pumping US99 (pop's choice, not mine), and we've given it an initial bath after picking off the caked on leaves and dirt. Dad wants to take it home and drive it for a week. He believes that your car is a reflection of your self. The initial makeover was a necessity before he would even consider being seen behind the wheel.

The seed of a sale was born. My dad wants to cut the huge monthly payment on his spotless 5 series BMW sport wagon. (I did mention that he believes the car is a mirror of the self.) I would love to unload the Maxima without the hassle of a public-ad sale.

Dad is an obsessive worker and fixer. He calls me everyday with news of car mats, a fixed automatic antenna, buffing agents, wax finishes, and the needs of the exhaust manifold, timing chain and water pump. I nod and say insightful gearhead things like, "That's cool." and "Wow, that's great." A rusty exhaust manifold renders me speechless. I don't know what comes next after the manifold.

I tell him how I got my SLIMP3 working and how I can listen to the music from my computer on my living room receiver. See how resourceful I am? Isn't that neat, dad? I can tell the words 'music' and 'computer' in the same sentence are a big step. I make the analogy to the coolness factor of his remote engine starter, but he's not buying it. He starts right back with the $100 salt and pepper car mats that he got on sale for $15.

When he visits to join me for the ballgame on sunday, I know he'll be driving the reclaimed Maxima. My dad is too proud of his work to miss the opportunity to show me what he's done. He points out the antenna, the floor mats, and the waxed finish. He pops the hood and pulls a little lever on the engine so I can hear the sputtering noise representing the rust on the exhaust manifold. The car looks outstanding and he probably enjoyed the process as much as the result. But not as much as he enjoys showing it off to me and everyone who sees him on the street driving the car he saved.

What you had to say:
August 19 2003

What a nice entry! I like the opposites at play in this-- indifferece: love, computers: cars, obsessive knowledge: guiltful indifference--very nice.

© 2003 Jason Keglovitz